Sculpted by Antony Gormley (born 1950),
Fibreglass and lead, based on the artist's body,
Executed in 1986,
© Winchester Cathedral, United Kingdom
You too must stand ready
Luke 12: 35-40
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’
Reflection on the Sculpture
Today’s reading ends with the words ‘You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’. Thinking of a standing figure, in a meditative pose, what better work to look at than this sculpture by Antony Gormley. I grew up in Belgium and at the age of 24 I came to the United Kingdom where I have lived ever since. One of the very first artworks I encountered there was this work by Antony Gormley, which stands in the crypt of Winchester Cathedral. I thought it was stunning. When it rains, water enters the crypt, and the figure’s feet stand in the water, as we can see in this photograph of the work in situ. Furthermore when it rains, the sculpture can be found holding water in its cupped hands, silent in meditation, as the water levels rise around its feet. Gormley, one of Britain’s most important contemporary sculptors, is known for his solitary metal figures who convey a strong sense of solitude and reflection. As his works are based on moulds taken from his own body, they carry a very personal feel. We are looking at a sculpture, yes, but also at the artist himself.
Jesus asks us in today’s reading to stand ready, be awake, be alert and attentive, sensitive to the world around us and His presence within it. Through all the noise that surrounds us, we too have to find that place, like Gormley’s figure in the crypt, where we take time and be attentive to see God around us and feel His presence. Jesus describes how he comes to knock on our door. That is not just at the end of time, but on a daily basis. Are we taking time off to be quiet during the day to hear that knock?
True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance, it is all about spending time with God, and talking to Him like a friend. The sculpture we are looking at today is paradoxically called Sound II, though it was completely silent when I went below to the crypt in 1995… and the figure has remained silent there ever since… keeping its head down... praying…
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